GYMNASTICS: Cardinals ready to take next step
Emmons, Allen want to use lessons from regionals for next season
It was a crowd unlike any the Cardinals had seen before.
"The atmosphere was really amazing, just a ton of cheering," sophomore Nicole Allen said. "It was the loudest meet I've ever been to in my entire life."
Despite the 8,174 in attendance at the University of Alabama's Coleman Coliseum, Allen and junior Brittney Emmons didn't have many fans there to see them.
Instead, the gymnasts had to win over the other team's supporters. And they largely did.
"It was kind of cool. Random audience members would be cheering for you," Allen said.
Fans of Auburn and Illinois could be seen in the crowd dancing along to Allen's hip-hop mix for her floor exercise routine. Emmons said she heard several shouts of "Go Ball State!" and "Go Brittney!" while she was performing.
In a meet where the Cardinals couldn't quite keep up with some of the top gymnasts in the country, Allen said she was most pleased with her floor routine, for which she earned a team-high 9.775 score and a 21st-place finish.
Her floor performance came after a fall on the first trick of her balance beam routine at the start of the meet.
"I just refocused everything, and I was just like, ‘I'm going to do what I do every day,'" Allen said.
After that, the Cardinals did not have a fall for the rest of the competition.
Emmons hit all four of her routines Saturday, just a year after committing two major mistakes at the 2010 regionals.
"I was proud of myself to be able to come out [Saturday] and be able to hit 4-for-4 at one of the biggest meets in college," she said. "I told myself it really couldn't be any worse than last year, so I had a very open mind."
Emmons scored a 38.775 in all-around to finish in 15th.
With the 2011 season drawn to a close, the two gymnasts and coach Nadalie Walsh want to take what they learned back to the rest of the Cardinals in hopes of getting the whole team to regionals in 2012.
"I just want to tell the team anything is possible. There was some really good gymnastics and there was some really bad gymnastics," Emmons said. "I think we're just as good as any team out there. Even those good teams have their mistakes."
Three Ball State gymnasts, including Tiffany Brodbeck who qualified for regionals in 2010, have been to regionals, which Walsh said will help the Cardinals in the future.
"The more experience you have, the easier it is to be able to get back here," she said. "I think something we'll be able to talk about in the future is how the whole team needs to look to be able to make it to an event like this."
Brittney Emmons – 38.775 (15th)
Nicole Allen – 38.3 (19th)